|System: PC*, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Airtight Games, Square-Enix Japan|
|Release: June 3, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Alcohol|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game with a lot of ideas. It defies genre, being sort of a stealth, sort of a visual novel, sort of an action game that never quite fits into any category. It has a dark and interesting plot which tasks you with finding the identity of your own murderer. It gives you a bunch of ghostly powers to work on solving a murder no living mortal could. It puts you in a huge open world with the power to walk through walls and teleport. Honestly, this game has everything you could want in a paranormal murder mystery… and none of it actually works.
You see, Murdered is one of those games that works better on paper than it does in practice, and you notice this every single minute you are playing the game. You play Ronan, a tough crook turned detective that is looking for the man who just killed him…. and apparently trying to get back together with his dead wife or something. The main gameplay surrounds investigation. You are tasked with finding clues, piecing them together and following leads to your killer. We have all played games like Phoenix Wright and 999 before, so we all know how compelling Murder Mysteries can be, but the problem is that there is no real mystery here.
Sure, you don’t know the identity of your killer, but you are also powerless to find out until the game ferries you there. The clues you find aren’t really clues. They don’t slowly reveal story elements, allowing you to piece together your killer’s identity outside the game. Rather, they tend to be tangentially related to the case at best. Your progress is usually blocked until you find one right clue, but since you have little input on which clue is the “right” one, this feels a lot more like a fetch quest than it does a mystery.
Of course, you have your ghost powers to help you out, but these really aren’t all that spectacular either. Most of them are just ghostly versions of otherwise mundane activities. For example, the first thing you learn to do is walk through walls. Cool right? Unfortunately, all the buildings in Salem are “consecrated” so you can only enter and leave them through open doors and windows. Lame. There are also “ghost walls” that exist overlapping the normal mundane walls, which you also can’t pass through. Double lame. Really, all that passing through walls lets you do is have a very limited amount of no clip in a very limited amount of area.
That being said, you usually end up passing through doors anyway! You see every time you pass through a wall you leave a ghost mark, to try and help you keep track of where you have been. If you leave it on the wall, you basically have no clue what is on the other side. However, if you leave it on the door you can easily keep track of what rooms you have visited and what ones you haven’t. So there’s basically no reason to use your phasing powers ever.
You have a whole bunch of other useless powers as well. You can possess people, but that doesn’t mean you can control them. You can “eavesdrop” to hear what they are saying or “mind read” to hear what they are thinking, but basically this is just a glorified “talk” button and they rarely have anything useful to say. You can “peep” which lets you see through the eyes of the person you are possessing, but once again this is really nothing more than a glorified “look” button. You can “influence” people to say or do what you want, but all this tends to be is selecting the right clue off a menu in order to make the story go forward. The most useful powers are teleport, which lets you leap short distances, and animal possession, which lets you get around places your ghost body cant, but even then the areas in which you can use these powers are limited and you can only use them in a very specific way to make the game move forward.
While you are investigating, demons will try to hunt you down and eat you… because reasons. The addition of an enemy does make the game a bit more tense, but it’s absolutely not needed in a mystery game! If these demons catch you they will suck your soul, which leads to a game over. So you have to hide from them as you conduct your investigation, which causes a needless amount of finicky rerouting. The only way to beat these demons is to sneak up behind them, hold a button, and succeed at a quick time event. There’s no combat, no spirit bullets, no ghostly fighting powers. Just sneaking around and trying not to die.
Unfortunately, it’s very hard not to die… again. Demons are everywhere and while you can see them through walls with another ghost ability, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all. You will frequently round a corner only to run into one and die. You can “hide” in the leftover ectoplasmic wisps of other souls until the demon loses interest, but this basically defangs the enemies all together. You can literally just poof vanish right in front of their eyes and then they shrug and go about their business. Sometimes you can hop from hiding spot to hiding spot to avoid being seen, but since this has nothing to do with walls or cover, it doesn’t feel like a stealth game. It feels like you are taking the long way around to a clue because the developers told you to.